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14 March 2023

James Fairfax Foundation and National Museum of Australia partner on conservation issues

Navigating the challenges of regenerating Australia’s land and water communities during global climate change is the focus of the inaugural James O Fairfax Senior Fellow in Culture and Environment at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

The James Fairfax Foundation and the National Museum of Australia have jointly appointed Dr Kirsten Wehner to the newly created role for 2022–25.

The program aims to build public engagement with the cultural aspects of environmental change.

During her fellowship, Dr Wehner will focus on the theme of regeneration, exploring how diverse communities across Australia are experiencing and responding to environmental challenges. In particular, Dr Wehner will emphasise the cultural histories and values of the continent’s most threatened ecosystems. The impact of climate change will underpin her work.

Through partnerships with cultural, academic and government organisations, as well as artists, scientists, conservationists, and diverse communities, Dr Wehner aims to build an understanding of how Australians are working to foster flourishing land and waterscapes now and into the future.

Across her tenure, Dr Wehner will showcase several projects and programs, including public conversations that explore the themes of the National Museum’s new Great Southern Land environmental gallery, programs that share and celebrate innovative approaches to regenerating places for biodiversity and human wellbeing, and a series of essays tracing how the Museum’s vast collection documents the cultural significance of Australia’s unique flora and fauna.

The Senior Fellow appointment was made possible with the generous financial support of the James Fairfax Foundation – the legacy of eminent Australian media proprietor, company director and generous philanthropist, James Oswald Fairfax.

Joint Executor of the Estate of the Late James Fairfax AC and Director of The James Fairfax Foundation, Edward Simpson praised the appointment of Dr Wehner.

‘We are very pleased to support Dr Wehner in this new position, and look forward to her important contribution,’ said Mr Simpson.

National Museum Director Dr Mathew Trinca acknowledged the role the appointment will play in addressing issues of national significance.

‘The Senior Fellow in the Culture and Environment program will focus on the contemporary challenges of sustainability and conservation, and how we as a nation adapt to issues such as climate change and global warming. These are obviously challenges of great national significance and I can’t wait to see how Dr Wehner addresses them,’ Dr Trinca said.

‘The appointment is possible due to the generous support of the James Fairfax Foundation. Partnerships like these play a vital role in achieving the Museum’s vision and I am grateful for the Foundation’s generosity’.

Dr Wehner is passionate about sustainability and conservation and says the program will explore how Australians’ lives are intertwined with our continent’s.

‘The program invites Australians to hear Country tell us its story, from the deep past to the present. This is also our own story. And in this time of climate change and threatened species, the program asks how we can make new stories about coming together to better care for our living places,’ Dr Wehner said.

‘Regeneration is a process that brings together many different types of knowledge – cultural and arts knowledge, scientific knowledge and First Nations' knowledge’.

Dr Wehner was selected from an outstanding field of applicants. An established curator, artist, producer and writer, Dr Wehner’s passion is collaborating to create inspiring experiences that celebrate and transform people’s relationships with their places.

Dr Wehner has worked as an independent curator and artist in Australia and overseas. From 2018–22, she was Director of PhotoAccess, the ACT and region’s centre for contemporary photography, film, video and media arts. She was previously Head Curator, People and the Environment, and Content Director, Museum Enhancement Program, at the National Museum of Australia.

James Oswald Fairfax (1933–2017) was an eminent Australian media proprietor, company director, art and antiques collector, and a generous philanthropist. He was appointed a Companion of the Order in 2010 in recognition of his service to the community through support for the visual arts, conservation organisations, and building programs for medical research and educational facilities.

Media contact: Matthew Heap 02 6208 5006 | 0459 949 172 or

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